Madonna stunned the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday (13Sep09) by opening the show with a tribute to Michael Jackson.
The pop superstar, dressed in black, took to the stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York to rapturous applause and a standing ovation and listed all the things she shared with the King of Pop - including the fact they were both born in August 1958 and have eight brothers and sister.
Her opening speech struck a sombre note when she said, "When Michael Jackson was six, he became a superstar and was perhaps the world's most beloved child. When I was six, my mother died. I think he got the shorter end of the stick. I never had a mother but he never had a childhood.
"When you never get to have something you become obsessed by it; I spent years searching for my mother figures... but how do you recreate your childhood when you are under the magnifying glass of the world for your entire life?"
Madonna went on to tell the audience, which included Jackson's brother Jermaine and father Joe, "There is no question that Michael Jackson was one of the greatest talents the world has ever known... Michael Jackson was a hero."
She recalled trying to befriend Jackson back in 1991, after deciding the two pop superstars should be pals.
She explained, "He showed up to my house without any bodyguards. We drove to the restaurant in my car. It was dark out but he was still wearing sunglasses. I said, 'Michael, I feel like I'm talking to a limousine, do you think you could take off those glasses, so I could see your eyes?
"He paused for a moment and then he tossed the glasses out of the window, looked at me with a wink and a smile and said, 'Can you see me now, is that better?' In that moment I could see both his vulnerability and his charm.
"The rest of the dinner I was hell bent on getting him to eat French fries, drink wine, have dessert and say bad words... Later, we went back to my house to watch a movie and we sat on the couch like two kids and somewhere, in the middle of the film, his hand snuck over and held mine. It felt like he was looking for a friend more than a romance, and I was happy to oblige him."
Madonna confessed she and Jackson fell out of touch but she felt "his pain" when "the witch hunt began" and he was accused of child molestation, adding, "I know what it's like to walk down the street and feel like the whole world has turned against you."
Holding back tears, Madonna revealed she felt she and the world had "abandoned" the King of Pop after she heard he had died in June (09).
She added, "We had allowed this magnificent creature that once set the world on fire to somehow slip through the cracks. While he was trying to build a family and rebuild his career, we were all busy passing judgment. Most of us had turned our backs on him."
The pop star concluded by calling Jackson a "king" and adding, "He was also a human being and alas we are all human beings, and sometimes we have to lose things before we can truly appreciate them.
"I want to end this on a positive note and say that my sons, aged nine and four, are obsessed with Michael Jackson. There's a whole lot of crotch-grabbing and moonwalking going on in my house."
Her heart-felt tribute preceded a dance tribute to the King of Pop as footage from the Thriller, Smooth Criminal and Bad videos played on a big screen behind the stage. Dancers hired for Jackson's doomed This Is It concerts in London performed step-by-step moves mirroring those on the screen.
The tribute concluded with a short rendition of Scream - his duet with sister Janet, who appeared onstage from behind a smashed mirror. The two Jacksons appeared to dance and perform together.